Republic of Tunisia
Ministry of Cultural Affairs



The Catacombs of Sousse

The Christian religion was known in Hadrumetum at least since the 2nd century, as confirmed by the four catacombs which were located west of the ancient city. Three are Christian and one is pagan. Their names refer to discoveries made therein: Good Shepherd, Hermes, Severus, Agrippa (pagan).

The first one owes its name to the discovery of a marble slab that sealed a loculus (wall tomb) and which is engraved with an image of the Good Shepherd; the second owes its name to a tomb mosaic, which states that Hermes offered this burial to his wife and children, the third and fourth owe their names to those of the deceased appearing on epitaphs. These galleries, dug into a very friable rock, have suffered so much from collapses that, only part of the Good Shepherd catacombs remains open to the public. As a whole, the catacombs of Sousse had 240 galleries with a total length of about 5 km and contained 15,000 burials.

Tombs in the galleries are either dug into the ground or in the walls and tiered. There are also caissons, troughs, or sarcophagi beneath arcosolia (arched recesses), and groupings of tombs in chambers (cubicula). The tombs dug into the walls are often sealed with terracotta tiles or bricks, marble slabs, bearing an epitaph, sometimes accompanied by symbols. The inscriptions on the tiles, in Latin and more rarely in Greek, were written in cursive writing, whereas the marble slabs have a neat script. The tombs dug into the ground are sometimes covered with mosaics.

Christians resorted to burial. The remains were buried in shrouds that have not survived, but which have left their imprints in the lime or plaster in which they were embedded. The funerary artifacts are in most cases limited to a terracotta lamp.

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